About . . . . Classes . . . . Books . . . . Vita . . . . Blog. . . . Podcast

by Peter Moskos

April 30, 2009

NYPD Stop and Frisks

Al Baker reports in the Times:
Any officer stopping a person in the street must tell the person “the reason, or reasons, why it occurred,” according to a letter from Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. The policy took effect April 23, according to a departmental order to revise the police patrol guide.
Street stops jumped to 508,540 in 2006, from 97,296 in 2002, according to data from the police, and reached 531,159 last year, the most on record.

Bent MetroCard Is Forgery

So says New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals. Sewell Chan of the Times reports.
Unfortunately for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Judge Graffeo’s decision contains details that can be used as instructions for bending MetroCards to get free rides. The judge devoted her entire first section, more than two pages, to explaining the magnetic coding of the cards, how the machines read the cards, and how, in essence, to foil the system.

International Association of Chiefs of Police, Fraternal Order of Police, embarrass themselves

The Obama administration said it favors shorter jail sentences for crimes involving crack cocaine.
Under current law, a person caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine gets the mandatory minimum sentence of five years, while it takes only five grams of crack cocaine to trigger the same sentence.
"Our stance on this is we shouldn't be lowering the penalties on crack. We've always talked about bringing the powder-cocaine penalties up," said Gene Voegtlin of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which includes 20,000 police chiefs and executives.
"We believe the remedy would be to increase the penalties for powder cocaine so all criminals are treated equally," said James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents about 325,000 uniformed officers.
The whole story by Gary Fields in the Wall Street Journal.

I don't want to overstate this point, but I would like to place it on the table: I don't think there's much difference between powdery crack cocaine and clumpy powder cocaine. And lab tests don't distinguish between the two because they're both cocaine.

I pity the man who gets caught in the ghetto with 5 grams of powder cocaine in a crack vile or two.

Bike Rapid Response

Strange Queensday Attack in the Netherlands. In the BBC video, notice the first police officer on the scene rides a bicycle. Not a car. Not a man on foot. But a cop on a bike. If the goal is rapid response (at least for short and medium distances), we need more bikes.

April 29, 2009

Safe Injection Facilities Conference

There's a one-day conference on Safe Injection Facilities (a legal place where addicts can shoot up) at John Jay College on May 22, 2009.

The conference organizer is looking for somebody to provide a law enforcement perspective. Any police out there interested in talking about what police officers think about such programs? Email Rick Curtis. It will be fun, interesting, and good place to network with academics and public health people. They need a good law-enforcement perspective so that it's not all just preaching the choir.

Drugs and the Taliban

In the New York Times.

Instead of fighting a war we can't win, we could buy the drugs. Burn it if we want. Sell it if we're smart. It would be cheaper and better than sending soldiers into harm's way. Perhaps just $300,000,000 a year. That's what they say the Taliban makes in drug profits (though I suspect it's higher). But instead, we'll fail to end the drug trade and push more farmers into poverty and the hands of the Taliban.

April 28, 2009

Corrupt Narcs in Philadelphia

I wish it weren't always the Narcs. And now, because I'm older and wiser (and somewhat shamed by comments to other posts), I'll add that it isn't all narcs. Most narcotic officers do their job and do it well. But corruption always has a vice link. Always.

Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker write in the Philadelphia Daily News:
RED FLAGS were everywhere. Something wasn't right.

Search-warrant applications read like form letters. A confidential informant made drug buys across the city, sometimes just minutes apart, defying the laws of physics....

Yet police brass apparently failed to notice.

Again and again, supervisors in the Philadelphia Police Narcotics Field Unit signed off on cookie-cutter applications for search warrants, which are now the subject of an expanding FBI and police Internal Affairs Bureau investigation.
[After allegidly being robbed by police officers during a drug raid] The 5-foot-1, 110-pound Lu, who had no criminal record, was hauled off to jail for selling little ziplock bags.
Read the whole story here.

Evidently, raiding and closing ghetto Korean corner stores for selling small ziplock bags is now standard operating procedure. All part of the war on drugs.
"The store is closed for six months or so, but on that corner, or one, two blocks away, drugs are sold and guys are armed," said Patrick Carr, a Rutgers University sociology professor. "They say quality of life - whose quality of life are we talking about?

"With the store closed, who will sell diapers, milk and bread?"
Laker and Ruderman have written a series of articles on Tainted Justice.

Legalizing drugs would be the quickest way to keep police clean. More bureaucratic layers of red tape is not the answer.

April 27, 2009

Plane Scares New York City

Here's a dumb recipe for a photo-op: take one 747, fly it low around Manhattan, circle around a bit, and follow it with two F-16 fighters.

Who was the idiot that thought of this brilliant idea? This is pretty inexcusable. And it sure better not turn up in an "Obama 2012" campaign ad.
The Police Department acknowledged that it had been notified about the event but said it had been barred from alerting the public. “The flight of a VC-25 aircraft and F-16 fighters this morning was authorized by the F.A.A. for the vicinity of the Statue of Liberty with directives to local authorities not to disclose information about it but to direct any inquiries to the F.A.A. Air Traffic Security Coordinator,” the Police Department said in a statement.
“New York City police were standing right there and they had no knowledge of it. The evacuations were spontaneous. Guys from the floor came out, and one guy I talked to was just shaking.”
The story in the Times.

At least the presidential campaign is over so we don't have politicians running around New York City to wrap themselves in the American flag at Ground Zero before leaving town to bash the entire city as un-American.

Does the rest of the country really see New York City as just a patriotic prop or a filthy den of unpatriotic immigrants, liberals, and Jews? Really, now... we're good people. And we live here. Please stop pissing on us.

I thought it was just Baltimore where I needed this sign:

April 26, 2009


I don't know if I should be proud or ashamed I love Vice Magazine. It's anti-consumer attitude is completely and unashamedly support by consumer culture and slutty American Apparel ads.

I don't know how to describe Vice so I won't. Let's just say it's eclectic and, among other things, sometimes provides a wonderfully unsanitized view of the world. Yes, there is some female nudity in pretty much every issue, but the only thing it has in common with Playboy is that I'll say I read it for the articles.

And, oh yeah, Vice is supposed to be free. But then you have to go to the right stores, none of which, evidently, are in my neighborhood. So I'm one of those losers that actually subscribes to Vice.

The current issue--loosely based on tech--features homemade explosive devices (from the Anarchist Cookbook), pictures on making Scottish Haggish from live deer to cooked meat, a photo-documentary on guest workers in Dubai, and lots more.

When I started reading Vice I just liked the hipster attitude (and the occasionally topless hipster girl). But then I came along this article and I realized the magazine was for real. Yeah, that's the prison in the Philippines where the guy makes all the inmates do massive dance numbers (and seems to have a harem of women prisoners on the side).

Where is all this going? Two good stories of note. The first is what I would call honest drug education about synthetic opiates. I can say no because other people said yes. It's effective not despite, but because it admits that heroin's high is as pleasant as "swimming through a sea of warm blankets fresh from the euphoria dryer."

The second story is about shipping drugs from South America in purposefully designed torpedoes.

We all know that submersibles are now used to transport drugs. But how many magazines interview the guy who "spearheaded the project"? I'll be damned if I didn't learn a thing or two (though I already know the war on drugs won't be won).

To give you some idea of the money involved (and why it's scary to think that criminals and terrorists profit from drug prohibition), in 2000 a kilo of coke cost this guy $2,100. He sold it in Mexico for $8,000 (and more in the U.S.). At three tons per torpedo, that's a profit of more than $17,000,000 per shipment.

At the time the street value for cocaine in the U.S. was $161 per gram or $161,000 per kilo. If you want to price it that way (as does law enforcement because it sounds cooler for the evening news), each shipment had a street value of $483,000,000. What wouldn't you do for $483 million. Now that's an economic stimulus.

April 25, 2009

Cooking the books?

Anonymous posted a comment on the previous post: I can't wait for the fudged numbers of the NYPD Comp-stat to be exposed..."

Boy, there sure is a lot of chatter about the fudged numbers in the NYPD (and I'm talking about chatter from NYPD officers). I didn't hear this nearly so much even just a few years ago. It seems that downgrading crime is becoming part of NYPD culture. And that's a shame because it takes away from the hard work of the NYPD in actually decreasing crime.

But I don't believe the homicide numbers are fudged. According to the latest official crime stats (week of 4/13/09 to 4/19/09), there have been 109 murders this year compared to 142 at this time last year. That's a 23 percent drop. That's a real drop. That's not playing fast and loose with the numbers. That's saving lives.

And if the other numbers go down in sync, the drop is probably real even if the numbers aren't. Sure, maybe felony assault and grand larcenies are a lower than reality would indicate. But if you think about it, as long as the errors are consistent month to month and year to year, those errors don't have much of an effect. The shame is that any effort put into lowering stats is kind of wasted because you have to keep cooking just to keep even. Once you start cooking the books, you can't stop. At least not without what will look like a big one-time increase in crime.

To police officers I offer this bit of unsolicited advice: call it like you see it. Nobody can make you downgrade crime. Except when they do. Then write the facts as you believe them in the narrative and keep a separate list of notes documenting when, where, and who ordered you to do what.

If the books are being cooked, one day it will boil over in scandal (and until then it chips away at a culture of honesty and integrity). And when the shit does hit the fan, the brass will cover theirs while throwing a few others under the bus.

They'll be covering theirs; you need to cover yours.

New York City crime rate still falling

The story in the Daily News:
The city's crime rate for the first three months of 2009 was the lowest in more than 40 years, defying fears that the sinking economy might send the city back into the bad old days of rampant murders and rough streets.

Through the end of last month, overall crime dropped 13.5% from a year ago - down in every major category, including homicides, with 89, according to daily crime statistics from police. Last year, there were 116 homicides during the same period.

Robberies were also down from 4,837 last year at this time to 4,131 this year, and grand larcenies dropped from 10,030 to 8,854.

"I know there's an anticipation ... that crime would go up as a result of the economic turndown. We just haven't experienced that," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday.

April 24, 2009

Fewer Police Deaths

It surprises a lot of people to find out that fewer and fewer police officers are killed on duty than in the past. I guess it counters the natural inclination to assume that the world is going to hell and violence is out of control and kids these days... have you seen what they're wearing?

The top red line is total police line-of-duty deaths. The bottom blue line represents cops shot and murdered on duty. I compiled these data for class. It's much harder to get data on police-involved shootings.

After being shot, car crashes comes in a close second. Nothing else comes close.

Why are fewer police officers killed? Probably a combination (in no particular order) of better training, better emergency medical care, better equipment, and more restrictive shooting policies. Still, on average, a police officer is shot and killed almost every week in America.

It's interesting that shooting deaths don't seem to correlate with overall trends in homicide. Because in general the best predictor of police and police-involved shootings is a high level of violence in the community.

All the data comes from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

April 23, 2009

Prison Cigarettes

Oh, Onion... how do you manage to keep being so funny?

All joking aside, the price for a single cigarette inside Rikers (last I heard) is $20. This black market was created, of course, after smoking was "banned." Most of the supply comes from C.O.s. Hell, for hundreds of dollar profit per pack? I might, too.

Does Torture Work?

Two questions:

1) Does torture work?

See FBI agent Ali Soufan's column in the New York Times.

2) Does it matter if it works?

Talk Yourself to Jail

Two good posts by Pepper Spray Me.
Talking Yourself to Jail.
And Hire a Lawyer, Please.

$100 for taking out the trash

I got fined $100 for putting my trash out too early. And not all the trash. Just the recyclable cans and bottles.

I thought I was doing the can-pickers a favor by giving them a few more hours of daylight to pick out can and bottles for the 5-cent deposit. I got the ticket at 3:30pm. They shouldn't go out before 5pm.

$20 would have taught me a lesson. $100 is real money.

And if I had known I was going to get fined, I would have put out all my trash to at least get my money's worth!

A bunch of old potheads?

Eight-term Iowa Republican Congressman Tom Latham is asked about LEAP, a group of former law enforcement agents who support drug legalization. He responds, "They're probably a bunch of old potheads."

Don't like the message? Disparage the messenger. That's what they call an ad hominem attack. Maybe he should get to know us.

Of well, you know what they say: any publicity is good publicity.

April 22, 2009

Arizona v. Gant

The court just ruled that police can no longer search a car incident to arrest... assuming the car isn't within reach of the arrested person and there is no reason to suspect that the car contains evidence related to the arrest.

Since New York v. Belton (1981), police have assumed that they can search a car any time the driver is arrested. This relates to Chimel v. California (1969) saying a search incident to arrest is justified by officer safety or the interest in preserving evidence.

In Arizona v. Gant (2009), a man was arrested for a suspended license and in custody in a police car. Police, because they could, searched his car (officer safety?) and found drugs. This is what has been overturned.

The real-world implications of Grant will be small. In my experience, most searches of cars happen not incident to arrest but technically to "inventory" belongings when the car is towed. Grant does not address that.

But I'm always pleased whenever the courts extend fourth amendment freedoms of citizens. It doesn't happen too often.

April 20, 2009

Do liberals laugh?

Almost a decade ago a colleague told me "You're the first liberal I've met with a sense of humor." Granted he didn't have too many liberal friends. But that's not the point.

Liberals have a sense of humor. Most of the great comedians are liberals. Many if not most of the world's great jokes have their origins in liberal Jewish New York. If you took away Jewish humor and African-American humor, there wouldn't be much left. I mean hell, I can count the funny Greek comedians on one finger.

But no, my friend wasn't talking about the history of humor. He was talking about our ability to laugh and not take offense. Have we really become so politically correct that we can no longer laugh? Apparently so, as the Erie police officer discovered (see post below).

As my father once said to a large sociology class at Northwestern University: "I've heard plenty of jokes that don't make fun of a person's race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental impairments.... [pause] The trouble is they're just not funny!"

Of course there is a line were racial becomes racist. There is an area where Jewish jokes become anti-semitic. There is a point where "gay" becomes homophobic. There is a place where "retard" is just plain mean. But that doesn't mean we should keep our mouths shut, afraid to make people laugh.

And there's a good rule of thumb to know when you've crossed a line: if you're telling a joke about a person or group, you better be able to tell it to that person or group. If they laugh, you're in the clear. Insight based on stereotypes? Funny. Insults based on stereotypes? Not so funny. Picking on a specific person? Risky. And doing so based on false stereotypes? Now you've crossed a line.

I believe in free speech. I though I might not approve of it all, I'll defend your right to say it.

Regardless, here's to humor! The thought of a humorless world is terrifying indeed. If we can't laugh, what can we do? I'd just as soon "take one to my head."

Police Officer Jokes About Murder Victim

That's just about as exciting a headline as "dog bites man."

I joked about murder victims. Of course you joke about murder victims. I mean, you do try and wait till you're away from from the murder scene before joking about murder victims (though I didn't even always pass that test).

So after work--after seeing another person take his last earthly breath, after looking at a dead criminal's brain spatter all about, after seeing the bastard's family break down over the death of their "baby," after hearing witness after witness say they "didn't see nothin'", after sorting through the guy's bloody and dirty clothes for evidence collection--after all that you go have a few beers with your buddies and you tell stories. You laugh. You try and make sense out of world that makes no sense.

This is what police do. And they do it day after day. What are you supposed to do? Buy flowers and the first silk-screened t-shirt in memory of the dead guy?

You should joke about murder victims. Otherwise you'd go crazy. It's called gallows humor. And I support it. It's cheaper than a shrink. Oftentimes more effective, too.

Now an Erie police officer, James Cousins II, is being suspended for doing just that.

Sure, this cop had a few too many. But we all have.

[video no longer available]

So what exactly is the crime? To think such things? To say such things? Or to be recorded and posted without your consent on youtube? We all gossip and think and say insensitive things in private and to our friends that are not appropriate for public broadcast.

He was off duty and this is free speech. The appropriateness of speech changes according to time and place. If he gave this speech to a news camera for the evening news, then that would be inexcusable. Even in semi-public environments like bars we deserve some protection of privacy and free speech. This wasn't a racist tirade. He didn't use the N-word (neither of which would be appropriate in any context). He's a drunk cop telling a war story.

And for the record, it is funny, even hilarious, to come across a guy shot dead in the head right under a malt-liquor sign that says, "Take it to the head"! Swear to God. Next round is on me.

April 16, 2009

At the ballpark...

I'm out traveling and speaking during my Spring Break. Right now I'm in Chicago, seeing as many Cubs games as I can.

(Greek) Easter Sunday, I will be a roasting a lamb with my cousins. Then back to NYC. Updates will be few and far between till then.

[And if you've ever wondered why the Greeks often celebrate Easter later than others, it's because the others have it wrong. Good Friday happened after the Last Supper. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder. So you can't have Easter before Passover. You can't be resurrected before you're dead. I'm just saying...]

April 14, 2009

Code 2 1/2

More lights and sirens in L.A. But in this case it's a good thing. And former Chief Bernie Parks shows once again why the rank and file hate him.

The story by Joel Rubin in the L.A. Times.

April 11, 2009

Man Robs Dunkin' Donuts, Returns to Give Back Money

A man robs a Dunkin' Donuts at (BB) gunpoint in Hinsdale, ILL.
About 24 hours later he returned, confessed, apologized and put the money on the counter, including loose change he'd gotten from the cash register, authorities said. When he realized the clerk did not speak English, he wrote a note that said he was sorry and shouldn't have taken the money.

"He said he felt bad about it," Leuver said.

Holmes tried to hug the clerk but she backed away, Leuver said.
The change of heart, caught by a surveillance camera, didn't prevent authorities from later arresting Alex Holmes, 17, of Hinsdale and charging him as an adult with aggravated robbery.
The story from the AP.

Welcome to America

How can our immigration policy be so idiotic and restrictive? I'm not talking about open borders with the third world, but the smart and rich people who innovate, start businesses, and are needed by our economy. Why do we keep them out? “'We are watching the decline and fall of the United States as an economic power — not hypothetically, but as we speak,' said Craig R. Barrett, the chairman of Intel.” The story in the New York Times.
“The next generation of Google engineers are being turned down,” says Pablo Chavez, Google’s senior policy counsel. “If a foreign-born engineer doesn’t come to Google, there is a very good chance that individual will return to India to compete against us.”
At the rooftop pub [in Canada, which did welcome him and his wife], Mr. Mavinkurve and his wife both express some anger. He thinks America should embrace him, given his contributions and taxpaying potential. After Google went public, he paid more than $200,000 in federal taxes on his income from salary and, mostly, sales of his shares, just in one year.
He says he feels, on one hand, great gratitude that America gave him extraordinary opportunity. But he says he fulfilled his side of the bargain by striving and succeeding. “Dude, I love this country,” he said.

But he doesn’t feel loved back: “My devotion is unrequited.”

Child killers. Child prisoners.

Jessie Rankins killed a five-year-old. Rankins was 10. The story by Gary Marx in the L.A. Times.
As he walked out of prison a free man last month, Jessie Rankins barely greeted his wife, exchanging only a few words without kissing or hugging her. It was their fourth wedding anniversary, and he hadn't seen her in 2 1/2 years.

"I'll feel better when I see my dog," he said a short time later.
In 1994, he and a friend abducted 5-year-old Eric Morse, dangled the screaming boy out a 14th-floor window at a public housing high-rise and dropped him to his death. Eric had refused to steal candy for them, prosecutors said.
This story won't have a happy ending.

(And how prisoners like this find girlfriends?)

April 9, 2009

Police Officers Paul J. Sciullo II, Eric Kelly, and Stephen Mayhle

I just happen to be in Pittsburgh. And I just happened to bike by mile after mile of police cars from around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation. I asked an officer where the service was and decided to pay my respects to officers Paul J. Sciullo II [pronounced Shullo], Eric Kelly, and Stephen Mayhle.

The service was in the U Pittsburgh basketball arena. It's been seven years since I've been at a police funeral. I don't miss them at all. I sat and stood with other police officers.

I felt I got there late, since I hadn't really planned on being there at all. But it was still hours before everybody finished filing in. Everybody is standing. Last came the Pittsburgh police. And then came the fife and drum brigades.

I've been to a half dozen or so police funerals. When I walked into the arena I didn't even know the officers' names. This won't be a big deal, I thought. But I'll be damned if I can stay dry-eyed as bagpipes play and I salute the coffins as they pass below.

There were four different bagpipe troupes, one for each officer plus the NYPD (damn the NYPD has a lot of officers who can play the pipes). The first was Pittsburgh. The second was Cleveland. I missed where the third was from.

I left at around 3:15pm as the mayor was saying things that mayors do. I had paid my respects... and there was still time to see the Warhol Museum before it closed at 5pm.

I didn't bring my camera on this trip. But I asked a stranger on the street to email me some pictures she was taking of police cars on Forbes Street. Hopefully she will.

Rest in Peace.

Coverage in the Post-Gazette (photo above by Steve Mellon).

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has excellent photo coverage.

April 7, 2009

Oh, Baltimore!

Feds Say Utz Potato Chip Stand at Baltimore's Lexington Market Was Used to Sell Guns.

And it looks like The Greek is behind it, according to the story by Van Smith and Chris Landers in the Baltimore City Paper.

I wonder if this means the wedding is off?Or at least of the shotgun variety.

April 6, 2009


There's a Q & A with former baseball player Darryl Strawberry in the New York Times today. He could've been a contender. Actually, for more than a few years he was, playing half a glorious career before crashing and burning on cocaine.
Q: You have your own history of illegal drug use, complete with cocaine binges and time in jail.

A: I wasn’t a criminal. That’s what saddened me. Not being a criminal and going to jail because you have a substance-abuse problem is really sad. It’s sad that the system doesn’t see that as the real issue.

April 5, 2009

"Engaging, even riveting"

Drug War Chronicle reviewed Cop in the Hood a while back and somehow I missed it.

Here it is:
I would imagine that most Drug War Chronicle readers... have little knowledge of or empathy for the men in blue.
Moskos really shines at getting his comrades to speak openly and honestly about their attitudes, and in that sense, "Cop in the Hood" is as revelatory as it is sometimes disturbing. Such attitudes may be deplorable, but they are also understandable. When all you see is the worst of humanity, it's easy to get alienated. As one officer put it, "You don't get 911 calls to tell you how well things are going."
While Moskos by no means sugarcoats the behavior or attitudes of his coworkers, his reporting will undoubtedly help readers attain some understanding of how they got that way. Cop in the Hood is also useful for understanding the bureaucratic grinder facing police officers in large urban departments, where they are caught between pressures from above for more arrests, from Internal Affairs to do it by the book, from the neighborhoods to clean out the riff-raff and from the same neighborhoods to respect the civil rights of residents.

Moskos brings the added advantage of not writing like an academic. Cop in the Hood is engaging, even riveting, and makes its points straightforwardly. Yes, Moskos references policing theory, but he does so in ways that make it provocative instead of off-putting.
People interested in the nitty-gritty of street-level drug law enforcement need to read this book. Criminal justice students and anyone thinking about becoming a police officer need to read this book, too. And the politicians who pass the laws police have to enforce (or not), need to read this book as well, although they probably won't.

What's News?

Why were the Oakland police shootings front-page nationwide news and the Pittsburgh police shootings not? I don't think it's just the difference between 3 versus 4 officers killed.

Somehow an angry violent black killer makes for better headlines than an angry violent white killer. Am I supposed to believe that white killers just flip out and lose it while black killers are somehow symbolic of deeper problems of race and the community? If the media were really so liberally biased, wouldn't it be the other way around?

(On the other hand, I don't hear of anybody in Pittsburgh heckling officers or setting up a shrine to the killer.)

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a lot of good coverage on the latest tragedy:

Deadly ambush claims the lives of 3 city police officers

Devotion to badge was slain officers' common thread

Hundreds of bullets fired in shootout with suspected cop killer

Police risked their lives to rescue downed officers

Suspect in officers' shooting was into conspiracy theories

No Justice

Officer Rafael Lora was trying to do his job. Now he has no job and is looking at prison. The story in the New York Times and the Post.

I wasn't there. But I believe the officer. Why? Because why else would have Lora shot the driver?

This is one case where even an NYPD officer should have trusted a Bronx jury.

April 4, 2009

"Bad Cop" Good Book

Paul Bacon's Bad Cop: New York's Least Likely Police Officer Tells All is a good book. It's a quick read and a nice look inside the NYPD.

My problem is that the hits a little too close to home. Bacon is a self-professed liberal who only stayed in the police department a few years. Errrrr... Sounds like me. But I quit because I wanted something better. Bacon quit because he couldn't hack it. Bacon was, as he readily admits, a bad police officer. And by the end of the book, I was convinced.

That doesn't sound like me. At least I hope not. Even worse, Bacon seems to blame his lack of policing ability on being a (gasp!) Liberal. I couldn't disagree more. I'm generally of the belief that a lot of people could make good police officers. Paul Bacon does not help me make this case.

Bacon's problems didn't come from his political beliefs, it is the fact that deep down he's a slacker. A beach bum. His general mellowness and belief that everybody can just get along if just left alone is not liberal. It's lazy. It turns out Bacon is a good at hanging out on the beach and being a dive-instructor. Perhaps it is those very qualities that made him a bad cop.

All that said, I really liked the book. It's a great read, if a bit "lite" (but a hell of lot deeper than most other lite cop reads). Bacon (and yeah, he already knows that's a funny name for a cop) has a wonderful perspective on the daily life of police officers and some of the absurdities of policing in the NYPD. Plus it's only $10 on Amazon. How can you go wrong?

Steve Bierfeldt's Box Full of Cash

In town for a conference, a director of Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty is detained by TSA at the St. Louis airport because when asked to explain why he’s carrying $4,700 in cash (it was proceeds from book and ticket sales at the conference), he asks the agents to tell him what law requires him to do so. He managed to surreptitiously record his conversations with TSA officers on a cell phone. The audio is infuriating.
That's from Radley Balko's The Agitator. Radley is a bit too anti-cop for my tastes, but he's on the mark more often than not. And his Cato work on police raids is a classic.

Now I don't fault the cops for asking questions. I would do the same. But I would be a bit quicker to realize that cash isn't a crime, see the Ron Paul campaign link, and understand the man isn't going to answer questions and let him go.

Finally, a smarter officer (different agency?) realizes it's campaign money, sees the red flag, and tries to set the original officers straight:

"Campaign Contributions.... You guys stopped him because the metal box." He doesn't phrase that as a question.

"Well that and the large amount of money that was in there." Ix-nay on the ash-cay, chief! Cash isn't a crime, even if it might give you reasonable suspicion for a stop. But after that, you got nothing.

The complete audio is here. I like how Bierfeldt doesn't say he "knows his rights!" Instead he says he doesn't know his rights.

It all goes back to the war on drugs. And every time the government asks you to give up rights in the name of fighting terrorism, it will be used in the war on drugs. We don't give "implied consent" to be searched at airports because we're worried about people carrying cash. We give up our rights so we're not blown up by a terrorist!

It doesn't take a agitating libertarian to worry about a government that stops a person walking through an airport with cash.

Back in 2004, an astute former police officer wrote in the Washington Post:
What starts as a necessary security measure will quickly become standard law enforcement procedure even for crimes that are nonviolent and not related to terror.
In order to stop and search any suspect, not just a terrorism suspect, law enforcement need only wait for a person to enter an implied consent area such as a subway or a shopping mall.... The true object of the search -- most likely drug possession, but any contraband will do -- is unrelated to terrorism.

The difference between civilian employees searching for bombs in airports and government agents conducting random searches for suspicious objects is the difference between preserving a free society and creating a police state.
The solution -- the balancing of public safety with constitutional liberties -- is surprisingly simple.... Limit the doctrine of plain view.... If the government must search without probable cause, let it search, but only for illegal weapons or bombs.... Any unrelated suspicious or illegal objects found must be ignored.
Read the whole article here.

Say What?

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that, "A Philadelphia police officer has been put on desk duty after he was quoted spouting his disgust for the black residents in the community he patrolled." And people wonder why cops don't trust outsiders.

The officer is said to have used the "N word" (though not at somebody). I won't defend that. But I will defend other things the police officer supposedly said:

"People in this neighborhood don't care about each other," Thrasher was quoted as saying. "They'll shoot each other for drugs, for money, for bullshit. All they care about is their reputation. They want to look tough." True.

At another scene, where a man was shot in the back of the head by his daughter's boyfriend, Thrasher said: "These people are . . . disgusting. It's like they're animals." Sometimes.

My book, Cop in the Hood, is filled with quotes like this. It's not a white thing; it's not a black thing; it's a police thing. Police are coming across dead people with the brains blown out. People acting like fools. People killed for no good reason. What are we supposed to think?

So what's the bad part? To see these things? To think these things? To say these things? Or to say these things in front of a Temple University graduation student and then get quoted out of context.

Is it not enough that we ask police to police in these neighborhoods while dodging bullets? But now police have to act like the B.S. they see is normal or acceptable behavior? And you wonder why police hate outsiders and the press? This is politically correctness gone haywire.

The Guardian Civic League, an organization of black Philadelphia police officers, called for Thrasher's firing. Maybe Thrasher is a mean S.O.B. I don't know. I've never met the guy. Maybe he's a good police officer. Maybe he's not. But I guarantee you one thing: every member of the Guardian Civic League has said or thought the same things at some point.

Will Wilkinson Smokes Pot and Likes It

Will Wilkinson interviewed me a while back on Bloggingheads TV.
The Atlantic Monthly’s Andrew Sullivan has been documenting on his blog the stories of typical, productive Americans—kids’ football coaches, secretaries of the PTA—who smoke marijuana because they like to smoke marijuana, but who understandably fear emerging fully from the “cannabis closet.” This is a profoundly necessary idea. If we’re to begin to roll back our stupid and deadly drug war, the stigma of responsible drug use has got to end, and marijuana is the best place to start. The super-savvy Barack Obama managed to turn a buck by coming out of the cannabis (and cocaine) closet in a bestselling memoir. That’s progress. But his admission came with the politicians’ caveat of regret. We’ll make real progress when solid, upstanding folk come out of the cannabis closet, heads held high.

So here we go. My name is Will Wilkinson. I smoke marijuana, and I like it.
Read all of Wilkinson's piece in The Week.

3 Pittsburgh Police Officers Killed

Three officers killed. Two wounded. This is too soon after Oakland.

22-year-old man with bulletproof vest and assault riffle kills officers responding to a domestic call at 7:30am. The wounded cop killer surrendered to police at 11am.
Some of the wounded officers remained for a time where they fell because other officers could not reach them because of the continuing fusillade.... SWAT officers were pinned down, with their protective shields up, at an adjacent house.
Other friends said Mr. Poplawski had several guns, including an AK-47 assault-type rifle, a .357 Magnum revolver, a .380-caliber handgun and a .45-caliber handgun. They also said they believed he had not been getting along with his mother.
Former classmates said they were surprised by this morning's events. [A friend said the killer] was opposed to "Zionist propaganda" and was fearful that his right to own weapons would be taken away.

"He always said that if someone tried to take his weapons away he would do what his forefathers told him to do and defend himself."
Read the whole story by Michael Fuoco and Jerome Sherman in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Indictments in Baltimore

Three officers, two retired, one of whom I know and like, are indicted five years after an incident. Gimme a break.

April 3, 2009

Coming home to roost

Seems like the drug war is now chipping away at the freedom and privacy of police officers. In L.A., gang and narcotic officers will have to turn over detailed personal financial information. The story.

Dangerous Drug Raids?

Not for police. Here's the story from Drug War Chronicle. I'm quoted in it.

April 1, 2009

Police Helicopters Cramp My Style

When I was in Baltimore, Foxtrot was down. Foxtrot was the police helicopter. It had crashed. Since then, they got another up in the air. I just stumbled across an old email I wrote my brother back in July, 2002, after a trip to L.A.
I was in LA for 2 days.... We went to bed in West Hollywood at 11 PM to get up at 5 AM. At 3 AM I was having a horrible dream about being under terrorist attack and having to evacuate. When I woke to scary sounds, I discovered a police helicopter circling near by with spot light on and some recorded 1984-like voice saying, "This is the LAPD. Come out with your hands up. You will not be hurt."

Cool, just like the movies, I thought. And just as annoying as I always thought it would be. The voice went on for a few minutes, the helicopter circled for about 10-15 minutes (hard to say when you're pissed off and trying to sleep). Short tight circles that gave it a weird sound. I don't know if that's better or worse than it staying still. Of course, I was thinking about shooting if down from the sky. So maybe that's why it circles.

I only want that damn helicopter out if some guy is walking down the street shooting people. If nobody was shot, I don't care what that guy did, let him go. It's not worth waking up a whole neighborhood. Fuck the Po-lice. And I'm sure it's much worse in South-Central that frigin' Hollywood/Beverly Hills.

It's another example of police being focused on catching people after the fact rather than preventing crime. And while it is true that it's hard to get away from a helicopter. If they were so effective, then why would anybody run in the first place, or continue to run once the helicopter is there? It's just not worth it.

But it deserves note that LA has only about 8,000 cops. That's only 3 times Baltimore for a city much bigger (New York has something like 40,000 cops). So maybe they do more with less. Of course, maybe they could have an extra hundred cops for each helicopter. Those things are expensive.